Skunk Cabbage brings a whole new meaning to the words “power plant.” This ice was thick enough for me to walk on today, yet these spikes had pushed right through it. This plant’s ability to generate heat enables it to grow and flower while snow is still on the ground – even though the plant is not frost-resistant – because frost never touches it.
There are only a few thermogenic (heat generating) plants in the world and in late Winter Skunk Cabbage can produce enough heat to stay between 60 and 95 degrees above the air temperature.
Instead of producing a colorful flower to attract insects, cold-tolerant bees and flies are drawn to the plant’s carcass-like smell. Heat causes the smell to travel farther than normal and once they arrive, pollinating insects have a place to warm up.
That purplish spike serves as a bud that holds and protects the flower when it emerges out of the ground.
To me, Skunk Cabbage is the first sign of Spring around here, so seeing this unique, yet smelly plant is a welcome sight.